just kicking down the cobblestones
This morning as I was finishing the lengthy process of straightening my hair, I caught part of a CBC interview with Nicholas Carr. He has written a book entitled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Research suggests that those of us who multitask (i.e. tweet, check email, etc while doing something of importance) over time lose our ability to focus for longer periods of time and our multitasking skills worsen.
Carr explained that as we surf the net, our train of thought is interupted by the region of our frontal lobe that has to make decisions about where to click, which link to follow and so on.
I believe his premise is that as this interuptions become part of the way we train our brains to work, we are less able to sustain deeper connection to our thoughts, personal experiences and what we are reading.
There was an interesting post on his blog about James Sturm, a cartoonist, who has decided to unplug for four months and write and draw about his experiences.
Carr quotes Sturm:
"Whether it's a sports score, a book I want to get my hands on, or tuning into Fresh Air anytime of day, I can no longer search online and find immediate satisfaction. I wait for the morning paper, a trip to the library, or, when I can't be at my radio at 3 p.m., just do without."This has also been my experience in having gone without a vehicle for 11 months. Life slows and you learn that all that stuff you once deemed necessary, simply isn't. That you don't really need that new dress, that you can go another day without something you're running low on. You begin to make decisions about which things (and people) are important enough to walk 40 mins or travel two hours by bus to see, do or buy.
Sturm says that he's noticing more moments of synchronicity -- magical thinking -- that is easy to dismiss.
"Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you're waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube."
There is something to living slowly. To not having everything at your fingertips the instant you want it. To walking a couple of kilometres to meet a friend for coffee or to stroll home after a dinner out.
Doesn't it make sense that we will begin to think differently as our experiences change? That our brains will begin to re-wire?
If we are going to change our thinking -- not always such a bad idea! -- we need to at the very least be aware of what we're changing, why we're changing it, how it will impact us and whether we want that change.
I'm not advocating a boycott of the internet. I love being able to find information when I want it. I am, however, suggesting that we give some thought to how we want our lives to unfold. Take a breath every now and again. Cook a meal from scratch, walk around your neighbourhood, check a book out of the library. Heck go to a music store and buy a CD just so you can look at the liner notes and read along with the lyrics.
Take some time to enjoy your life.
P.S. In keeping with today's theme, I didn't check the internet to find the lyrics that I'd forgotten. Instead, I'll turn to you, dear reader. Can you remember the missing words?